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Speed Development For Distance Runners

  • By Jeff Gaudette
  • Published Dec. 23, 2013
  • Updated Dec. 23, 2013 at 5:32 AM UTC

Learn how working on your top-end sprinting speed can help make you a better marathoner. 

As training theory continues to evolve, coaches and exercise scientists are continuing to uncover more effective and efficient ways to train and get results at long distance racing. In particular, coaches now understand the importance of speed development (recruiting maximum muscle fibers per stride, developing neuromuscular coordination, and improving efficiency) – even for long distance runners, who race at paces far slower than their top-end speed.

In fact, if you’re a runner who focuses on racing the half marathons and marathons, speed development is even more important than you may realize.

Most marathoners devote a vast majority of their training to logging lots of miles and performing challenging threshold runs, which, of course, are critical components to running your best at the 26.2-mile distance. As a result, most marathoners may go years without running faster than 5K pace in training. Consequently, they lose their ability to generate explosive muscle power, which results in the decline of running efficiency and economy and, eventually, form starts to break down. This loss of speed is even more pronounced with age, as studies show speed is the first of your abilities to deteriorate as you get older.

RELATED: Become A Faster Miler To Become A Better Marathoner

Therefore, in order to guarantee long-term progress in running, it’s important you incorporate regular speed development work in your training. Over the following pages we’ll explain the difference between speed development and traditional speed work and show you how (and when) to implement speed development work into your training schedule.

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Jeff Gaudette

Jeff Gaudette

Jeff has been running for 13 years, at all levels of the sport. He was a two time Division-I All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University and competed professionally for 4 years after college for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Jeff's writing has been featured in Running Times magazine, Endurance Magazine, as well as numerous local magazine fitness columns.

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